By Christopher Mominey
Sun contributing writer
Recently I received a call from an alumnus of our Catholic schools who spoke fondly of his time being educated within our system here in Syracuse. He reminisced about his experience as a member of the old Parochial League and reminded me once again that the seed we plant today is nurtured over the course of a lifetime. As we begin a new school year here in the Diocese of Syracuse it’s important that we remember the thousands of lives that have been touched over the years through the mission of Catholic education.
The primary function of the Catholic school is to build relationships. In the tradition of Jesus himself, our goal is simple: to build relationships with our students so that they might see the face of God in their lives. The high-quality Catholic institution must have this as its number one priority if it wishes to succeed. And in that flash of an instant when seasoned graduates become the youngest alumni, we witness the true test of how well we have done.
Development Offices, School Advancement Offices, Alumni Directors and the like are not a fixture in the public school system. However, in the Catholic school they are crucial to the viability of the institution. And while many might think that I refer here only to our alumni’s financial support, it is only part of the picture.
There can be no doubt that alumni donations, annual giving and capital campaigns are an integral part of the relationship formed between Catholic schools and their graduates. In our Catholic schools a significant amount of funding comes to us in the way of endowments, private scholarships, graduation awards and personal gifts. Our alumni are eager to assist our current students with financial aid and to make certain that the Catholic education they once received is alive and well in the Diocese of Syracuse. Each thank-you note that we write tries to assure them that this is indeed the case.
Second, Catholic school alumni are the most important recruiting tool we have. And while I know the term “recruit” is a bad word in the world of athletics, it is in fact the term we use when we talk about admission into our schools. After all, Catholic schools by their very nature must recruit students. Recruitment is the process by which we present our product to the public and hope that what we have to offer appeals to their needs as a family. And it is the alumni, especially those that live locally, that serve as our front line salespeople when it comes to recruitment. Never under estimate the power of word of mouth.
Third, our alumni relationships must be strong because the mission of Catholic education is at stake. Each time an alumnus of a Catholic school succeeds, so too does the whole system. The hundreds of Catholic schools around this great nation and the thousands of students entrusted to our care are part of a wonderful tradition. Whether in California, Florida, Maine or Central New York, the success of one is the success of all. Rest assured that when young people go into the world prepared for work and excited about citizenship, they will often mention their school as a place where their success began. Combined with the small world in which we literally now live, the networking that takes places with these alumni cannot be underestimated.
Finally, it should be noted that our alumni have a critical role in the future of the Church. Time and time again, studies reveal that our graduates remain connected to the Church in a variety of different ways. As one study stated “Graduates of Catholic schools are more closely bonded to the Church, more deeply committed to adult religious practices, happier, and more supportive of religious perspectives on women and have more confidence in other people, more gentle images of God, and a greater awareness of the responsibility for moral decision-making. In addition, they give in a committed fashion more contributions to the Catholic Church.” (“National Opinion Research Center [NORC] 1988 General Social Survey”).
Indeed, when our graduates walk across the stage, we as Catholic educators are eager to see each one succeed. Their success is our success. Many of these graduates give back a great deal to their school and to their Church in a variety of ways. But in the end, it is the life-long relationship that we build with these men and women that reflect our commitment to keep their schools going strong. As we begin this new school year we remember our alumni and thank them for their ongoing support and prayers.
Christopher Mominey is superintendent of Diocesan Catholic Schools.